There is a certain time of day, in Greece, between the afternoon and darkness, when the sun is beginning to set and the light is soft and gentle, that you begin to reflect on and appreciate the day. We are cycling on Poros, in the Peloponnes Islands south of Athens, enjoying mild temperatures, clouds, a few drops of rain, and the scent of a pine forest. Near the end of our ride we stop near some ruins, sip fruit drinks, and listen to stories about this island; myths about people who lived here more than a thousand years ago. Back on our bicycles, we coast downhill as the sun is beginning to set. A slight haze rises from the water and the light begins to soften. Clouds break the remaining sunlight into bands of yellow and gray, and shadows make images on the water. Twilight turns the white houses of Poros into yellow and gold, and reflections from the houses glimmer on the sea.
Our time on Poros is mid-way through a sailing and cycling trip in the Cyclades and Peloponnes Islands south of Athens. Each day the crew of our small boat motors to a different island, where bicycles are unloaded and we follow Catharina and Toni, our tour guides, as we cycle around the island and they relate its history. The first couple of days are hot, and our cycling is limited to shorter rides with frequent water breaks in the shade. Then a storm comes up from Africa and our crew finds shelter among sparsely-populated Peloponnes islands. Here, the people live in small, quaint villages with white and blue houses built into cliffs that rise up from natural harbors. Some of the islands are barren from clearcutting and erosion during Roman times, and the people are isolated, yet cheerful and welcoming.
The Greek economy is a mess, although we haven’t seen any outward signs of trouble. The EU recently arranged a loan and the banks are open, but Greek citizens are limited to withdrawing 60 euros per day, so life requires planning and care. But the Greeks are optimistic people, and while the locals we talk to do not agree on a solution, everyone has one, and they all hope that conditions will improve in the future.
A Cycling and Sailing Adventure
Our one-week cycling and sailing adventure trip requires mid-level cycling skills, a willingness to live in close quarters with other travelers, and an interest in history and ancient cultures. We are traveling with a German tour operator (Islandhopping), which supplied the boat, crew, bicycles, and guides. Four of us (from the U.S.) signed up online (www.islandhopping.com), were picked up at the Athens Airport, and joined a group of travelers from all over the world aboard a small wooden ship.
Life on a small ship means you are very involved – with the crew, the schedule, the weather, and your fellow travelers. Everyone learns to assume that each member of the group is interesting and no one is perfect, and the best way to get along is to accept each other for what they bring to the whole.